Category Archives: Lifestyle


Nora Fleming (Autographed!) Giveaway!

Squeal! I’m doing a giveaway and I’m giddy because — gasp — it’s a nora fleming giveaway! And if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, this will arrive just in time.

Do you know someone who has the perfect decor for every occasion? A tasteful starfish for the seaside barbeque. A well-worn catcher’s mitt for the team party. A festive sombrero for the Mexican fiesta.

I was not that woman.

Until I met Janice. Janice can tie bows and wrap presents the Tiffany way. Janice does not wear sweatpants. Janice introduced me to nora fleming.

And now, with nora fleming‘s gorgeously adorable and life-changing platters, I am that woman (but I wear sweatpants). How it works: you get a nora fleming platter. Or three. You insert an appropriate hand-painted mini (they’re adorable little ceramic pieces) into it to transform your classic platter into an occasion-specific serving dish. Your friends are impressed and kowtow in admiration.

And better yet, the winner of this giveaway gets an autographed nora fleming rectangular platter plus three adorable minis (bluebird, apple and butterfly) — an $80 value. Except add a bunch more to that because it’s personally autographed by Nora.


Here’s how it works:

  • You have up to 5 chances to win. Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to complete your entries.
  • The giveaway will end on Friday, May 4 at midnight Eastern Standard Time.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter and notified by email after the drawing. The winner will squeal.

Good luck!


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Cooking Food Lifestyle

Guest Post: Super Lucky Charms

I have a special treat for you today: a guest blogger! Richard from HumorOutcasts was a high school classmate of mine. When he mentioned that he would be willing to eat any of the dishes I describe on this site if I paid him $100, I was touched.  He assured me that, though not a professional chef, he has a superb mastery of the culinary arts, and I believed him.

I give you: Richard.


Sandi and I are great friends. We never let any more than 24 years or so go between conversations, even if the last one might have been: “Hey, um, did you drop this pencil?” So when she mentioned that I might be able to write a guest spot on her blog, I jumped at the chance. Yes, I am professional writer who has earned over $20 over his lifetime, but I didn’t think I should rest on my laurels. So I wrote up one of my favorite recipes and told Sandi I had something for her to post.

Me: “I’ve got something to post for my guest blog spot!”

Sandi: “What? Oh, I was just being polite. That’s not necessary.”

Me: “But I spent 12 minutes on it.”

Sandi: “No… really, it’s quite all right.”

But once I explained that I was a professional writer, whose work can be found at the insanely popular HumorOutcasts, soon there was an awkward silence…followed by lot of crying and apologizing, which soon became begging. And finally, once I agreed to stop crying and never bother her again, she agreed to post my recipe.

When it comes to my own library of recipes, I like to focus on quality over quantity. Today I’m going to share with you one of my favorites:



*  Box of Lucky Charms (preferably one with some kind of toy inside, or at least a maze or some trivia on the back)
*  Package of Pre-cooked bacon (why not?)

Open the package of bacon and separate 2 slices of bacon. Cook those first so that you can eat bacon as soon as possible. Then cook the remaining package of bacon and eat that. Now you are ready for the main course.

The average box of Lucky Charms maintains a ratio of “tasty marshmallow stuff”-to-“brown healthy stuff” of about 1-to-4. This simply will not do.You might be lucky to have a bowl of these, but wouldn’t you rather be “super lucky”?

Get the largest bowl in the house. Measure out 4 cups of marshmallow bits. Pour them into the bowl. Measure out 4 cups of the healthy brown stuff. Throw three of the cups into your dog’s food bowl or the bird feeder. Put the remaining cup in the bowl. Mix thoroughly to dilute brown stuff.

You probably remember the leprechaun saying “pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, and green clovers”! Turns out that the lineup is now pink hearts, red balloons, orange shooting stars, rainbows, maybe that’s a horseshoe… and I don’t know what that yellow one is, but it’s magically delicious. It doesn’t matter. Alternatively, you could separate out the marshmallow types and use an equal number of each… but if you did that, what on earth is wrong with you?

Add milk at your preference. Season with powdered sugar to taste.

1 serving.

Lifestyle Popular Travel

Peacock Break

I’ve been trying really hard to improve my food photography. Today, I took a picture that was so bad that I had to delete it right away so that my eyes wouldn’t bleed. The good news is that I’ve been having better luck with peacocks. More so than peas.

Almost like a tasty stew, right? And this one I would wear to the Oscars:

It’s spring break season around the nation and my cousin and his family are visiting from New Jersey. I think his daughter has a future in product placement judging by the way she’s advertising that orange.

When I’m with peacocks, which you’ll be surprised to know is not that often, I’m most struck by how blue their bodies are. They are so blue.

I wasn’t kidding when I said blue. Well, except for this guy:

He was not blue at all. But the others were very blue indeed. So blue that we had to do two days of peacocks. The first day, my younger daughter was home with the flu.

Poor little pipsqueak couldn’t see the peacocks even though she was kind of dressed like them. Her older sister, who claims to be able to talk to animals, befriended one in particular. I like how the fencing looks in this picture. In real life bird poop is kind of gross, but in pictures? Rustic.

My mom and dad were with us too, and I got to be in a picture that my cousin took. My daughter was mad that she had to be away from her peacock friend for ten seconds.

I like this peacock who runs the general store in this outlaw town:

On Day 2, my youngest was feeling well enough to look for some peacocks of her own. First she befriended a female.

Eventually, she held court with a bunch of them.

Don’t trucks look better with peacocks around them?

I’ll close for now with this. I’m not really sure what it is, but it seems like a good way to head into the weekend. I’ll want to get back to the food soon…do you have any favorite photography tips to share with me?


Kreativ Blogger Award

Kreativ Blogger Award

So I’m still waiting for that Nobel Prize to come to my door but I just found out that I might have to actually discover something to get it. No matter, the lovely and charming Danielle at Cozycakes Cottage just nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger Award! Thanks Danielle! So sweet of you. It’s almost exactly like the  Nobel Prize except that you have to do a few specific things:

  • Thank the blogger who gave me the award and provide a link. (check!)
  • List 7 interesting things about myself that my readers might find interesting.
  • Nominate 7 other bloggers, provide links, and let them know.

7 Things About Me

1. I’m double-jointed. It’s not as useful as you think.

2. I’m afraid of butterflies. Did you know they have 12,000 eyes?!?

3. One of my lifelong quests is for volume in my hair. Contact me if you can help.

4. If you show me a playback reel of a sporting event in slow-mo set to music, it will make me cry. If you show me the actual sporting event in real time, I will fall asleep.

5. I am working on separating my sense of self-worth from my profession. I don’t talk about my professional life much here for that very reason. Plus, I’d probably get fired.

6. I’m Chinese-American with parents from Taiwan, but lately I’ve taken to labeling myself more as Taiwanese-American to capitalize on the recent popularity of Jeremy Lin.

7. I find bathroom humor really hilarious. I just do.

Blogs I Hereby Nominate

Dr. Jen Gunter  is an OB/GYN who, unlike me,  does write about her profession, and it’s fascinating.

Dulce Dough shares recipes with the loveliest pictures.

Inspired by Charm is a window into the charming life of an incredibly creative innkeeper.

The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle is an amazing cookie decorating reference. I think she’s already famous.

Beautifully Pure — Katie is an 18-year-old blogger with a cute vintage-y sense of style.

Scribomania is written by a writer, who’s writing. Can you believe English isn’t her first (or second) language?

KidsBookyBubbles, full disclosure, was started by my kids and the site content is created by kids — just proof that kids do like to write (and a fascinating look into their little heads!).

Some of these blogs may opt out of participating in Kreativ, but whether they do or not, they’re all worth a visit. Enjoy!


Surprise! Eye Surgery!

It’s a good thing I was born in this day and age because if I hadn’t I would have been weeded out by now because of my poor vision, consumed by hungry and possibly even slow hyenas while others in my pack fled and I sat around going, “So, as I was saying…”

Cross Section of Human Eye
This would be my eye if it weren’t all gray


Anyway, last week I went to the optometrist and for my annual eye exam. I really like my optometrist because he has a special glaucoma machine that doesn’t do the air puff, a machine that takes photos of the inside of your eye without having to do dilation, and a special wrist motion he uses when he covers your eye with a black plastic spoon (kind of like jazz hands, but optometry-style). Amidst the non-air-puffing and the special wrist flips, he found what he suspected was a hole in my eye. Holes in your eye are bad, because they can lead to retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is bad because it causes blindness. I always knew that because I have such poor vision I had a higher risk of this, and I’m the kind of person where if something bad could happen, it usually does, so this wasn’t totally unexpected, but I was mostly grossed out by the idea of having my eye propped open. Years ago I took a friend to her LASIK surgery and, not being squeamish, asked if I could watch. The doctors happily allowed me to and broadcast a ginormous close-up of her eye while it was being operated upon. Let me just say that it was MUCH grosser than I ever thought. I learned that watching an eye being taped and propped open makes me kind of sick. And her eye also bled.

So today I went to see a retinal specialist. He also had a special machine that takes pictures of the inside of your eye, and the technician was especially excited about this machines. The technician, who without my contacts I can only describe as being flesh-colored with what appeared to be a beard, an uneven bob and a headband, started excitedly pointing at diagrams of what this picture could look like and what conditions those could indicate (this is a surprising departure from most technicians I’ve experienced, who refuse to share their interpretations of results with you probably because of some legal reason, even if you say oh, come on, please, I won’t tell anyone.) Anyway, I pretended for a while to follow and then finally said, “I’m sorry. I’m blind as a bat without my contacts so I’m just using my imagination right now.”

Fast forward: I meet the doctor. It’s his first day on the job. I’m a little worried. I hear him in the hallway being introduced to people and am glad to know that it’s not his first day as a doctor, and that he went to and worked at Stanford before coming here. He puts lots of eye drops in my eyes. He shines lots of bright lights at me while I look in a bunch of different directions. He finds the hole and commends my optometrist, who I want to tell him has this special wrist motion. He says that there is a hole. It is small, but if something happened then I could get a retinal detachment. Again, retinal detachment: bad. He says that I could take the risk that nothing would happen, or, get the surgery and decrease that risk to 0.5%. He says there will be 5-10 minutes of pain, and then I can go on with my day. And maybe I’d want to take a Tylenol.

ME: How bad is the pain?

DOCTOR: Not too bad. I just did it on a 12 year old and he put up with it.

ME: So you can do this, like, now?


ME: And then I just go home and go on living?


ME: [thinking through pain management exercises, and that if I go blind I will be dependent on my husband to do my hair and makeup] OK.

Fast forward again. Cold eye laser beam room. He pushes lot of buttons. I can tell by the way he’s pushing that what he wants to happen isn’t happening. He pushes more buttons. He tries to figure out how to adjust my chair. He says, “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to get some help with this.” I am again thinking through the scenario where my husband will need to do my makeup and hair. He comes back with another doctor. They push a bunch of buttons and check the plugs. I am hoping they have a backup generator and that there isn’t an earthquake in the 10 minutes it will take to do my surgery.

DOCTOR: OK, we’re ready!

ME: Uh, you feel confident with this procedure, right?

DOCTOR: Oh yeah, I’ve done it a million times, it’s just my first day here.

ME: [hoping this machine works the same way as the one at Stanford] OK.

He put this thing on my eye (remember, no contacts, so I couldn’t tell you more about it) and then I saw lots of really bright flashes of light. I didn’t actually think it hurt at all; it was most bothersome to the eye that wasn’t being lasered. But I do think I have a fairly high pain tolerance because I was once in labor and didn’t know it. Though another time I was in labor and it hurt a lot.

Then, he was done and I was free to go. I still couldn’t see anything, being dilated and having just been temporarily blinded by laser, but he said that I could drive. I don’t get that — eye doctors are always telling me I can drive after dilation but to me the world looks like I’m playing an ’80s video game with someone else’s glasses that my kids have licked. Anyway, I used The Force and my imagination and got home, and a few hours later, have mostly recovered my vision.

But the best part is that when I got home I got a surprise that was even better than surprise eye surgery:

Sprinkles Cupcakes
Sprinkles cupcakes! I can't help but see some of these as corneas and irises.

This was totally unrelated to the surprise surgery, but thanks Jenny!



Figs by Moonlight

Food is the best.  I went to a farmer’s market today and the food was so good that I just had to give the picture more space than usual.  One of the happiest days of my life was when a friend made roasted figs filled with goat cheese.  I think figs should grow on trees.  Wait, maybe they do.

Last week there was a blackout all over San Diego.  At first, I was annoyed because I couldn’t work.  But then, gradually, I became glad, because I couldn’t work.  I took the kids to the pool and the pool manager told me he heard the power wasn’t going to come back on until sometime the next day.  I felt a little giddy.  This was as close to camping as I would ever want to get.  I’m the type of person who, born in a different era, would be dead by now.  I would have been naturally selected out and consumed by tigers because of my poor eyesight.  If required to hunt rabbits for survival as a result of the power outage, I wouldn’t make it (should I hunt with a spatula or a collander?).

But I survived the power outage.  I cooked — on my gas grill (no, can’t make fire with twigs either).  I quenched my thirst with beer (which was made of hops and barley that someone planted).  And the most startling thing happened that night.  I discovered…moonlight.  I’d heard that word before — and I’ve certainly seen the moon — but I didn’t get it until I saw it in the absence of other light that the moon actually provides light.  And that night, a lot of it.  So much of it that it actually kept awake up as I was lying on the floor in an attempt to keep cool (weakness #4: cannot withstand temperature fluctuations of +/- 3 degrees).  [Full disclosure:  I am the person who once walked in a field behind my childhood home and ran as if doing a jig because grasshoppers were touching me.  Observing me, a friend of my brother’s asked, “Has your sister ever been outdoors?”]

But, moonlight!  I’ve seen it.  It only took me 40 years to experience it.  Now I get it.  Moonlight.

Health Uncategorized

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

This morning, a few days before my 40th birthday, I put two contact lenses into one eye.  Who says 40 is the new 30?

Photo to the right was taken on a recent whale watching trip.  This was about 10 minutes before I got too seasick to care about whales.  And actually I think these are dolphins.

So recently, I’ve started going to an acupuncturist.  Combination of not wanting to be heavily medicated and hearing the tales of others, including some friends in the medical profession, talk about the merits of acupuncture (one friend, a 43-year-old physician, has had numerous surgeries and procedures in an effort to get pregnant; enter acupuncture — she’s 4 months along now).  Of this I am convinced:  it certainly does something.  The first time I had it done, about 10 minutes in, alone in the room, I started laughing uncontrollably.  Nothing was funny.  Although I wouldn’t rule out mental illness, it seemed to be a strange response to the acupuncture.  Apparently this isn’t uncommon.  And after my first session, I felt the best I’ve felt since I was probably two.  It’s what I imagine nirvana is meant to be like.  And best of all, I slept that night, which hasn’t happened much lately.

Last time I went, the acupuncturist checked my pulse and said that my lungs sounded weaker than normal.  I had felt that day that I was coming down with something, and had just started feeling slightly headachy, with some sinus pressure, and that overall run-down feeling.  She prescribed me some herbs to take — apparently these are very effective if you can catch something at its onset — and within a few hours, I felt a lot better.  By the next day, I felt fine.

So I’m a convert.  I was always skeptical of Chinese medicine, but I’ve realized that having a Chinese mother who randomly instructs you to ingest herbs is not the same as having someone who has actually studied Chinese medicine prescribe you herbs.  And I can’t explain the acupuncture, except to say that it works.

In case you’re wondering, and you’re probably not, if there’s an earthquake you’re allowed to pull all the needles out.  And then run outside in your glamorous paper robe.


Food Health

Liquid Breakfasts

I love breakfast.  I love eating, and breakfast is the first thing you get to eat every day.  I love bacon. Eggs.  Butter.  During the week, though, breakfast is a lot less fun.  For me, it’s a rushed time, and with my new job I am usually on a call with an international group of people at an ungodly hour.  I need to be able to prepare something that can be done in increments as I hit the mute button periodically, and it needs to be quickly consumed.  But it also needs not to be disgusting.  I’m a snob like that.

So here’s a little meal that my friend Patricia suggested.  It’s actually surprisingly good.  You’ll need (the stuff I took an ugly photo of with my cell phone):

  • Almond milk (about a cup or so…though I don’t usually measure so you might have to experiment here); I’ve tried unflavored as well as vanilla and they both work fine
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Avocado
  • Whey (I don’t really know what this is except that Little Miss Muffet ate them with curds in a nursery rhyme) — but at Patricia’s suggestion I got MRM brand 100% all natural whey in Rich Vanilla
  • (optional) Flax oil

All you do is slice up the banana and avocado, add in about a cup of the almond milk, a squirt of flax oil and a scoop of whey, and blend (I have a handy little Braun hand blender that makes this easy).  You can add in ice if you want it to be more smoothie-like, but I’m happy with it so long as everything else is cold.  The whey protein makes it filling — unlike with smoothies, this one tides me over til lunch. There you have it — healthy liquid breakfast!

Health Home Uncategorized

Melaleuca and My New Non-Toxic Life

After a couple of months of dry-heaving from stress, I’ve started to re-examine my life and have decided that I should really focus on the living part.  One thing that’s helped me feel a little more sane is de-cluttering and streamlining.

Enter Melaleuca, The Wellness Company.  A co-worker of mine recently introduced me to the products.  They’re non-toxic, concentrated (and thus space-saving: I took back four ginormous bottles of toxic cleaners like Cascade and Jet Dry that I could barely carry — and a single normal-sized bottle of Melaleuca’s Diamond Brite did the job far better), effective (who knew natural products could be even better than harsh chemicals?) and economical (much, much less expensive than buying non-toxic products through regular retail channels).  A lot of the products serve multiple purposes, like the Tough & Tender all-purpose cleaner, which is also a fruit and veggie spray, or their toothpaste, which can also be used to polish silver.  Their vitamins are far superior to grocery store brands — I started getting up early to do yoga in the mornings — and my husband asked that I buy him some of these vitamins because he’s never seen me with this much energy!  No more headache-inducing fumes after the cleaners come, no more giant Costco containers that don’t fit on my shelves, and no more paying extra for companies’ advertising and distribution costs (Melaleuca is customer-referral-only, so you get better value).

I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m as streamlined as Jay Shafer, who is apparently making it all work in a 89 square foot home — and I’m pretty sure I’ll never get there (where would I put all my handbags?).   But this is a pretty good start. 

Health Home Uncategorized

Method Dish Liquid and

My least favorite kind of stress is the kind that makes you randomly gag and wretch during the day, struggle to retain composure, and makes people wonder if you’re trying to hide a pregnancy. I’ll save the details for the novel that will render my financial success a foregone conclusion (please, magic book deal people, I’m sure I can think of something you’d want to publish!), but I found myself craving something very comforting…and yet very cheap.

Two weeks ago I was up in San Francisco visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who live the lifestyle of the people you’d imagine live in the spaces shown in the CB2 catalog. They had this Method Dish Liquid in the kitchen and I strangely found myself finding excuses to do the dishes. The pink grapefruit scent is perfect — calming, soothing, not quite as sharply citrus and energizing as lemon but somehow spirit-lifting and happiness-inducing all the same. I also bought the all-purpose cleaner and have been cleaning a lot more…for fun! Equally non-toxic as my home-made cleaning agents, they smell a million times better than my vinegar-y concoctions. And they made me feel…better! Like, a lot less stressed…and just by washing dishes!

You can buy it pretty much anywhere nowadays, but one easy way is via Alice’s prices are very competitive, and best of all, shipping is free AND you don’t have to leave your home. Alice, your online domestic helper, will send you reminders to refill certain things at intervals that you specify. It’s a great idea — and once Alice gets a critical mass of inventory so that I can take care of all my household shopping online — I will gladly fully outsource all of that to Alice. Worth trying out — the more people that try it, the more leverage they’ll have to get products.